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Tearful judge grants pregnant Texas woman emergency abortion

Demonstrators march and gather near the state capitol following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade, 24 June 2022, in Austin, Texas (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)
Demonstrators march and gather near the state capitol following the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v Wade, 24 June 2022, in Austin, Texas (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

A Texas state court authorised an emergency order allowing a pregnant woman to get an abortion — flying in the face of the state’s strict anti-abortion bans and the first case of its kind since Roe v Wade was overturned.

Kate Cox’s baby was diagnosed with full trisomy 18 — and her baby may not survive until birth, and if the baby does, the life would only span for minutes, hours or days, said her lawyer Molly Duane, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Ms Cox was seeking a temporary restraining order to allow her to have an abortion. She is taking on the state of Texas and the state’s medical board.

The attorney added that Ms Cox’s only options in Texas are an induction or a C-section, which are both dangerous for her future fertility since she has already had two C-sections. Ms Cox and her husband, Justin Cox, “may not be able to have more children in the future” if she doesn’t get an abortion, Ms Duane said.

“The idea that Ms Cox wants desperately to be a parent and that this law might cause her to lose that ability is shocking and would be a genuine miscarriage of justice,” Judge Maya Guerra Gamble said while tearing up in court on Thursday.

Ms Cox wiped away tears of joy when the judge approved the restraining order.

Hours after the ruling, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton penned a letter threatening Texas hospitals, where Ms Cox’s doctor apparently holds privileges.

He criticised the temporary restraining order, saying the order and the “allegations in this lawsuit, on their face, fail to establish that Ms. Cox qualifies for the medical exception to Texas' abortion laws.” Mr Paxton added that the order is also “deficient” because it fails “to identify what ‘life-threatening’ medical condition that Ms. Cox purportedly has that is aggravated by, caused by, or arising from a pregnancy.”

Mr Paxton warned that the temporary restraining order “will not insulate you, or anyone else, from civil and criminal liability for violating Texas’ abortion laws.” He added, “We remind you that the TIRO will expire long before the statute of limitations for violating abortion laws expires.”

“Judge Guerra Gamble is not medically qualified to make this determination and it should not be relied upon. A [temporary restraining order] is no substitute for medical judgment,” the state’s attorney general wrote.

“Fearmongering has been Ken Paxton’s main tactic in enforcing these abortion bans,” Marc Hearron, senior counsel at Center for Reproductive Rights, said in response to the letter, according to Reuters. “He is trying to bulldoze the legal system to make sure Kate and pregnant women like her continue to suffer.”

Earlier in the day, Ms Duane said her client had “her fourth emergency room visit in the last month,” due to severe pregnancy complications. Ms Cox and her husband already have two children and were hoping for a third.

The attorney said that Ms Cox has medical exceptions to all three state abortion laws at stake, and that these laws are “unconstitutional as applied to her.”

The defence, on the other hand, argued that Ms Cox was utilising a temporary restraining order to achieve a permanent result. The state said that granting such an emergency order would be “changing the medical exception in Texas” and would be an “improper use of” a temporary restraining order.

Ms Duane reiterated that “Ms Cox’s condition is deteriorating every single day” and that she was working with a “very challenging timeline.” She argued that the temporary restraining order was necessary for her client’s medical care and emphasised that the court didn’t need to “reach constitutional claims” in this temporary restraining order and that a later hearing could address that.

After the judge approved the order today, Ms Duane said in a press call that she and her client were “relieved” by the ruling. She added that while this is a “spot of good news,” many others in the state and the country are suffering due to anti-abortion bans.

To underscore this point, Ms Cox’s victory occurred as another landmark lawsuit is playing out elsewhere in Texas.

A state judge temporarily blocked the state’s ban on abortions during medically complicated pregnancies after 13 women sued the state after they were denied abortions. However, the state immediately appealed, essentially preventing the ruling from going into effect.